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From Dictator To Leader, How To Improve Your Situational Leadership In 6 Minutes

Written by: Casimiro da Silva Santos, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Here we go, another leadership article, right?! I bet that's what you're thinking. Stop scrolling right now and keep on reading. In this article, I share my ideas for strengthening situational leadership so that you may transform in just six minutes from the "dictator" you think of yourself as to the leader you want to have.

Happy businessman writing a business plan on whiteboard to his team on a meeting in board room.

I am a big believer in Servant Leadership—"Leadership is about serving others". However, recently, I have been researching and reading more about other leadership styles and concluded that situational leadership styles are probably the most effective when managing, motivating, and inspiring your team.

“My way or the highway.”

That's a common saying in dictatorial leadership style.

We all know that a straightforward top-down approach to leadership works well when the situation is specific and the support of the team members is not needed.

This style is often used when dealing with a challenging situation when the time to act is limited, and the team members have low skills, responsibility, and accountability levels. The leader makes all the decisions, gives orders and sees that they are carried out. The team must understand what they need to do and why. Other team members may find it challenging to offer ideas or suggestions under this leadership style.

This leadership model works only in specific situations (for example, in a crisis) and can lead to resistance in more ordinary circumstances.

But a leadership style that was once effective for a manager can become ineffective.

Situational leadership works better than dictator-style management.

“But it requires flexibility: a leadership style that was once effective for a manager can become ineffective.”

A leader may face self-doubt as they become aware that their previous approach didn't work in one situation, then suddenly find themselves unable to change their style when managing a new task and project. This is where coaching, and mentoring programmes play a role, allowing leaders to learn from their mistakes, grow, and become self-conscient and aware.

Your Leadership Style Should Be Situational.

To start, let's look at a real-world example of when leadership style impacted the outcome of a decision. Imagine this situation: your boss has decided to swing the axe and close one of your company's product lines, even though it is still selling well. While this move may have been good for business, the sales team is upset, and morale has plunged. Although your boss felt like the decision was necessary to keep things running smoothly, would its outcome have been different if he had acted more collaboratively?

Imagine you are tasked with leading an eight-member team on a substantial project in another scenario. You will be responsible for delegating tasks and ensuring that all deadlines are met on time. Suppose you apply a "dictator" leadership style. In that case, chances are high that some members will feel unappreciated or disrespected by your approach—which could lead to low morale and engagement throughout their work process (and ultimately hurt the result).

In these cases, situational leadership would be better than one size fits all because people respond differently in various situations depending on many factors such as personality traits, individual strengths and weaknesses, gender, age group, experience, and culture.

Let's Start. What Is Situational Leadership?

You may have heard of situational leadership, a flexible leadership style that adapts to the employees being led instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach. Situational leadership involves a process of developing employees based on their experience, competence, and commitment for them to become increasingly self-sufficient.

The situational leadership model was developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey, who published their book "Management of Organizational Behaviour" in the mid-twentieth century in 1969.

The core idea behind the model is that there is no single "best" leadership style.

Rather than leaders should always take a top-down approach and give orders from above or always being democratic and trying to reach a consensus with their employees, situational leadership recognises that different circumstances might call for different approaches.

Leaders may need to use different strategies at different times to work with individual employees or groups of employees to get them ready to take on new responsibilities.

How Do Leaders Learn to Use Situational Leadership?

As a leader, the ability to switch between these leadership styles is important because you need the flexibility to respond to your team's needs. Just like you do with day-to-day tasks, you should set goals for your employees—and as they meet those goals and their maturity grows, you'll be able to mentor them through each phase.

One of the most important skills you can have as a leader is identifying your employees' maturity level.

1. Start by identifying the maturity level of your team or those you want to lead.

It can be a challenge to know how to approach people who are at different stages of development. There are two critical factors, or dimensions, to consider:

What are their skills and abilities?

What competencies do they possess that will allow them to complete tasks promptly?

How motivated are they by the task at hand?

Are they highly motivated to learn and grow and develop new skills, or do they want to hand off work as quickly as possible so they can move on to something else?

The first dimension is relatively easy for a manager to assess. With proper training and oversight, most employees can learn new skills or hone existing ones to accomplish the tasks required. The second dimension is more difficult because it deals with our general emotions and attitudes toward work. Emotions tend not to be so cut and dried. Instead, they tend to flow throughout our careers, like motivation ebbs.

2. Match the leadership style and behaviours to the employee's maturity level.

The 4 styles of situational leadership and their behaviours are:

Directing: tell people what to do, how to do it, and when and where to do it.

Mentoring: guide people and show them the right way of doing things.

Supporting: provide support and help your team members with their tasks.

Delegating: gives people the authority to make decisions within a set framework.

3. Mentor your team members through each phase.

In all the excitement of a new job and the first few weeks, it's easy to overlook that something crucial is happening in those first days: you're helping new co-workers grow. They're not just learning your way of working; they're figuring out what they can do to contribute to the team.

You've heard it before—"Leadership is about serving others". But if leadership is about serving, who does this help? It helps everyone on the team by enabling them to develop their strengths to accomplish more together. You can't serve others unless you know who they are and what makes them tick. After all, our greatest successes come from people developing their unique talents and skills, which we cannot know or predict until someone shows us our potential.

4. Be flexible enough to continue monitoring maturity levels and adjust accordingly.

After you've assigned your team roles and started working toward goals, regularly check to ensure that your employees are thriving in their roles and growing as leaders. Situational leadership involves a few more moving parts than rigid approaches, but it can be incredibly effective with the right mindset. Situational leadership is one of your best bets if you're looking for ways to manage people from different backgrounds and walks of life.


Situational leadership styles are much more effective than the one-size-fits-all model. You need to be flexible and adapt your leadership style depending on the maturity level of your team members.

What worked for you in the past may not work for you now. Adapting your leadership style by using directing, mentoring, supporting, and delegating styles could be the best and most effective way to lead. The key is the needs of each team member and how you can adapt your style to their needs.

Try and error, seek feedback, and check in now and then on how the team perceives your leader-manager behaviour and style.

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Casimiro da Silva Santos, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Casimiro da Silva Santos, better known as Cas, uses pronouns he/his. He is a dad, a business and climate action leader, a coach, and a speaker. His mission is to create a perspective of abundance, alleviating scarcity so that we can live a brighter future. After a transformational coaching experience with Simon Sinek Inc., Cas decided to create Bring the Best®, a coaching and consulting firm for personal development and business growth. Through individual, career, and executive coaching, Bring the Best transforms lives so that each person can live the life they want and dream about. His coaching style is authentic and empathetic, with a special focus on the LGBTQIA+ community.



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